From its founding, NASCAR was suffused with the backlash ethos of the 1970s — ambitious people in every field realizing there was money and power to be had in Wallace’s astonishing discovery that (in many ways) the whole country was southern. When the Guv’nah cracked that great secret of the American demographic code, Bill France’s sport was already there on the track, idling heavily. Today, wildly popular and ludicrously profitable, it is nothing like it pretends to be. It is corporate connivance dressed up as populist celebration, careful contrivance masquerading as raucous authenticity. It has become, in short, simply another American sport, and the distance it has traveled is that same distance that got us from Huey Long to Newt Gingrich, from William Faulkner to John Grisham and from Patsy Cline to Shania Twain. How you feel about that pretty much depends on how much you like Gingrich’s thinking, Grisham’s writing and whatever it is that Shania Twain does besides looking like the most popular lap dancer in Dogpatch.